Description (From Transcript):
“So in my family, when it comes to New Years’ we usually have the custom of doing this like- a plate with a bunch of money. So we have, like a bunch of like savings and coins, and what we do is we distribute those coins in this star shaped plate, and we also put like 3 candles in the middle. One of them is blue, one of them is yellow, and then one of them is red. I think the red signifies love, the yellow one, I believe it signifies money and then the blue one, I don’t remember but usually my mom does this so I don’t really remember, but I always see her do it every year. And she always does it before midnight strikes for the next year. And then after that she places dollar bills, or like. If we have $2 bills, (we have the superstition that $2 bills bring super good luck) we put those around as well and then at the end, we tie all the candles together with the red ribbon, because red signifies keeping the bad energy out. And that’s why she adds this little stick of cinnamon in the form of a cross, and she puts it in the middle of the plate to signify, I think, good positive energy, and as well as health”.
Context: The informant, VA, is a first generation student at USC. She has one sibling and her family is from Puebla, Mexico. She explains that her mother learned this tradition from her grandmother because she used to do something similar every year back in Mexico. However, her grandmother doesn’t really talk about it. Additionally, she explains how it signifies a hope for having a better year. In the previous year, her family experienced some struggles, especially with her dad having health problems. Therefore, this tradition was also used to ensure better health in the new year, and making sure that everyone in her family is safe. When asked if she believes that the tradition actually brings good energy, she responded that she genuinely did. As a child she was suspicious and claimed to have not believed in it, however, she has gotten so used to doing it every year that it feels wrong to not do it now. If she doesn’t, she will get sad, and therefore prioritizes it, even if it takes five minutes. Without it, she states that “the little magic disappears”.
My interpretation: I found it interesting that there’s a connection between money and good luck and health. Other objects that could potentially represent good fortune were not placed in the dish, revealing how financial stability is directly connected to a stable lifestyle. The color coordination of the candle and what each represents is also indicative of values within the informant’s family and culture. Love and money seem to be common themes in this tradition; love is present in the red candle as well as wishing health and safety for family members. Money is present in the yellow candle as well as literally in the dish. While the informant herself could not recall what the blue candle represented, it might be specific to good health or luck as these themes also came up a lot during the interview.